Τhe rediscovery of the cultures of classical antiquity also marked the beginning of the history of restoring and conserving these previously hidden artefacts, a history that now stretches back almost 500 years. Quickly, a number of central aspects of this work emerged: piecing together fragments, the stylistic reconstruction of missing sections, speculative additions, as well as the preparation of surface treatments. Today, these objects are often seen as the product of outdated approaches to restoration, however they are also repositories of various forms of knowledge, providing information about reconstruction efforts situated between desire and reality, about the historically determined technical limitations and capacities of conservator-restorers, about materials and materiality, and about early and contemporary approaches to the traditions of restoration.
The Bode-Museum is organising an international conference kulturGUTerhalten. Rekonstruktion – Ergänzung – Retusche. Geschichte(n) der Restaurierung archäologischer Schätze (Reconstruction – Addition – Retouching; Histories of the Restoration of Archaeological Treasures), to be held on 29 to 31 May 2024.
This symposium will bring together current research from scholars in classical and ancient studies and archaeological studies, and from practicing conservator-restorers, facilitating an interdisciplinary dialogue focused on these issues.
Although ancient culture has never really been completely forgotten, the re-emergence of ancient objects during the Renaissance raised fundamental questions about the preservation of the artefacts that had been unearthed. It is from these very questions that restoration and conservation have developed, with the aim of preserving archaeological objects in the long term, both as historical evidence and as aesthetical works of art. From a genealogical point of view, the question of how these cultural assets from antiquity should be preserved has been raised for more than six centuries.
In the rediscovery of ancient objects, the uncovering of intact works has remained the exception. It has sometimes been possible to recover fragmented but substantially complete objects, but in the majority of cases, the loss of the substance of the artifact itself has been frequent, whether it occurred during the period of oblivion or, on the contrary, during its rediscovery and even up to the museum period.
One of the main objectives of the restoration of archaeological artifacts has therefore oscillated between the assembly of existing fragments, the stylistic reconstruction of lacunar areas, and the way in which these are completed or not.
In this way, the works made from a wide variety of materials from different ancient cultures encapsulate multiple layers of knowledge in terms of restoration history. First of all, they show the complex contemporary motifs in the reconstruction of the original form of finds. Secondly, they provide information about the (artistic) craft and technical possibilities as well as demands in the realisation of additions. Depending on the changing understanding of antiquity, the design of their surfaces either emphasised the material used or suggested a deviating materiality – defining, from an early date, important restoration consequences.
The international hybrid symposium "kulturGUTerhalten", scheduled for 29-31 May 2024 at the Sculpture Collection and Museum for Byzantine Art (Bode-Museum), will bring together current research by scholars of antiquity, archaeometers and conservators in an interdisciplinary exchange.
Session 1: Aesthetics - style - ethics: reconstruction between historicizing desire and scientific reality
Session 2: Complement and retouching: possibilities and limits
Session 3: Material - materiality: composition and effect
Session 4: Treatment of heritage: reinterpretation and re-restoration
Interested participants should send an abstract (maximum 250 words) and a short biography (maximum 200 words), by 31 July 2023 to: email@example.com. The languages of presentation will be German and English. Please take into account the time limit of 25 minutes for contributions, including discussion. The final conference programme will be announced by end of August 2023.
If you have any questions about the call for papers or the symposium, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.